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Coding is fun again

It you've got an Xbox 360 and 400 Microsoft points (about £3.40), then run, don't walk, to the Community Channel and download Kodu.

Learning to program has never been so much fun - and the simple graphical programming environment lets kids of all ages build their own apps. I was programming seconds after downloading the code, and there's a whole world of functionality I've yet to explore

To be blunt: Kodu just rocks. It's educational programming done right for today's console generation. This is their BBC Micro.

Here's why:

Learning to program used to be easy. Turn on a BBC Micro and you'd be ready to write your first BASIC program, and Sinclair's machines had programming shortcuts printed on their plastic keys. Then there was Logo, with its simple approach that let beginner programmers build more and more complex behaviours for its turtle cursor.

But something went wrong along the way. Good old BASIC vanished, and along with it the fun of programming. It was work now, and that's the way it always would be. Kids would play games on consoles before growing up to write Visual Basic applications in the office. Programming was now officially boring.

A group of researchers at Microsoft Research had a different idea. People had experimented with visual programming techniques before (remember the keypad on the back of BigTrak?), and applications like Microsoft's Robotics Studio were mixing it with declarative programming concepts

Experiments like Popfly had shown there was interest in programming for what Microsoft's Jon Montgomery called the "non-programmer" – the person who puts a Facebook badge or a Yahoo! widget on their web page. However the Microsoft Research work went in a completely different direction, bringing visual programming to the world of gaming.

Read more at TechRadar.

Look - it's got a turtle!


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 9th, 2009 12:34 pm (UTC)
Yes and no
I'd try it out, but I don't have an Xbox360. Surely you're deliberately being a bit disingenuous here. It's not that BASIC disappeared - it's that the world changed around it.

In the 1980s you could create something passable with built in home computer programming languages, and one or two man game commercial game projects were achievable. Now, the bar is much higher, and immensely high quality games are sold for peanuts. In some ways it is much harder to become motivated and make progress, because although there are infinitely more projects you can target effort at, many of the obvious ones have been already done.

It doesn't help that programming languages built into Windows aren't even documented or pointed out by default, even if there are lots of free programs which can be downloaded. It also doesn't help that (as far as I know), there's no central point that highlights many of these (often very good and usually free) programming/content creation tools.

It could probably be effectively argued that these days game mods have taken over from ground zero programming..
Jul. 9th, 2009 06:10 pm (UTC)
Have just pointed Senior (xbox-obsessed) Son at it. What with him being all at a loose end post GSCEs.

Jul. 10th, 2009 01:24 pm (UTC)
Interesting. So just like my parents had to surrender access to the only family TV set to allow us to play with the ZX81 so I'd have to surrender the only family TV set to allow Looby Loo to program. Progress, eh?

We've had a version of Logo on the PC for a while and the turtle's still fun.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )